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ND admits 3,484 from strongest pool ever

Karen Langley | Monday, April 10, 2006

If statistics on accepted applicants for next year’s freshman class are any indicator, the incoming class of 2010 – like each freshman class in recent years – will be the strongest academically in Notre Dame’s history.

This year’s selections were made from a pool of applicants who boasted academic statistics equal to those of Notre Dame’s incoming freshman class nine years ago, Director of Admissions Dan Saracino said April 4.

“In the end, we think this is the academically strongest and ethnically most diverse class we’ve ever had,” he said.

With 12,800 applicants, this year’s pool – the largest ever – was up 13 percent from last year, Saracino said. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions sent acceptance letters to 3,484 students, and Saracino said the University hopes to enroll 1,985 students for the fall 2006 freshman class. Notification letters were mailed March 30.

The size of incoming classes must remain static due to the University’s physical constraints, so the number of students admitted each year is based on previous years’ yields – or the percentage of admitted students who choose to attend. The yield has ranged during the past four years from 56 to 58 percent, Saracino said.

“If we admit them, there’s a good chance they’ll come,” he said. “That’s not the norm across the country.”

Saracino said private U.S. colleges have an average yield in the 20 percent range.

This year’s admitted students – who represent all 50 states and 32 foreign countries – are on average slightly more academically qualified than last year’s admitted students. The admitted students’ average class rank places them in the top 4.5 percent of their high school classes, and they boast an average SAT score of 1398 out of a possible 1600 and an average ACT score of 32 out of a possible 36.

Last year’s admitted students also averaged a top 4.5 percent rank and 32 ACT score, but had a slightly lower SAT score of 1392.

While the academic profile of accepted students has increased just slightly, the entire applicant pool has grown dramatically more competitive in recent years.

The academic profile of all applicants for the University’s freshman class in fall 2006 – average high school class rank of top 11 percent, SAT score of 1300 and ACT score of 29 – makes them academically identical as those admitted to the fall 1997 freshman class, Saracino said.

These statistics indicate that virtually all applicants could succeed academically at Notre Dame, Saracino said.

He stressed the emotions involved in applying to Notre Dame – a school he said draws a “very self-selective group” of applicants who “probably already see themselves at Notre Dame.”

“By our saying ‘no’ to those students, that doesn’t mean they won’t go on to do great things,” he said. “It’s our loss we can’t admit all of them.”

Saracino emphasized that students can apply to transfer to the University after their freshman year at another school. His own son was not admitted initially to Notre Dame but transferred to the University after a year elsewhere.

Though the actual statistics for the fall 2006 freshman class will not be known until accepted students notify the admissions office of their decision, the office projects the 2006 enrolled class will average a top 5.6 percent class rank with 1380 SAT and 31 ACT scores. The office also projects the incoming class will be 52 percent male and 48 percent female.

Catholic students will likely make up 84 percent of the class, and alumni children will comprise 23 percent of the class, Saracino said. The admissions office does give alumni children “special attention,” Saracino said, a privilege explained by the strong allegiance of alumni to the University.

Almost 10 percent of applicants are children of alumni, and enough of those applicants are accepted that they comprise 17 percent of the accepted student pool. A higher confirmation rate by legacy applicants explains their 23 percent proportion in the projected class, he said.

Despite the admissions office’s reciprocation of alumni loyalty, Saracino said he is committed to keeping Notre Dame “inclusive, not exclusive” and preventing it from becoming a “club.”

“I’ll always be sympathetic to those students who want to go to Notre Dame but don’t have a hook to get them in,” he said, noting that many accepted students have no connections to alumni, faculty, athletic teams or benefactors.

The class is also projected to be the most diverse in the University’s history, with 23 percent ethnic minorities and four percent international students, Saracino said.

Though high class ranks and test scores are an undeniable factor in admissions decisions, they never guarantee admittance, Saracino said. He noted that the admissions committees chose to accept only 438 of the 849 applicants who were ranked number one in their high school classes.

In addition to turning down almost half the valedictorians, admissions also rejected a candidate who had a 1600 SAT score, Saracino said.

All University officers are notified when the admissions office sends decision letters, Saracino said, because alumni, benefactors, parents of current students and current students frequently contact officers on behalf of high school seniors whose applications were denied.

Saracino said about 600 e-mails, faxes and voicemails were received last year, with even more expected this year as 1,400 more rejection slips were sent out.

Though the admissions office does not compile statistics on accepted students’ extracurricular involvement until they agree to attend, Saracino said next year’s freshman class – like the rest of the Notre Dame student body – will have resumes built on more than grade point averages and test scores.

“These students are just as talented out of class,” he said. “I wonder when they sleep.”

Admissions is currently holding online information sessions for admitted students and is working with alumni clubs across the world in an attempt to ensure alumni contact with every admitted student.

“We’re not selling Notre Dame – we’re telling the story of Notre Dame,” Saracino said. “I don’t want to lose a single student because of unanswered questions.”